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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Clash of the Titans (review)

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Those whom the gods wish to punish, they force to watch this movie.

How does something like this go so wrong? No one was looking to it to be Lord of the Rings or anything. We just wanted some gloriously goofy popcorn junk food, like the 1981 original offered. Instead… gah. Imagine if Oliver Stone figured Pirates of the Caribbean should be a highminded epic and tried to borrow some of Peter Jackson’s mojo by stealing his shots — literally shamelessly aping the framing and the camera movements and the ambitious grandness that made Middle Earth come alive. But then he also cribbed the Kraken from Cloverfield and cast Voldemort as Hades, right down to actually kidnapping, apparently, poor Ralph Fiennes and forcing him to seal his fate as the go-to guy for magical superbaddies with English accents.
Or maybe it’s that director Louis Leterrier took a look back at his own Incredible Hulk and said to himself, “Well, I love that final half hour of incomprehensible smashups of cartoon characters, but all the beautifully realized character, storytelling logic, and human emotion of the first three-quarters of the film has got to go.”

When I say that this is empty, cheap, cold, soulless corporate filmmaking, and that that’s its good side, it’s true. Because, on top of all that, someone made the boneheaded decision to convert the film to 3D using, it seems, someone’s nephew who’s got one a them fancy computers, because the 3D isn’t just pointless: it’s incompetently bad. Like to the point where courts martial for dereliction of duty should be convened. It’s as if the film were shot in View-Master Vision, it’s so majestically terrible looking. It’s as if the actors are all bobblehead dolls wearing spring-mounted masks. It’s actively nausea-inducing in places in a way that suggests that something is fundamentally scientifically unsound in its attempt to trick the human ocular system.

Clash of the Titans is epic, all right. An epic disaster of proportions so huge they rival the gods’ decision to let us do our own thing. Somewhere, Zeus is going, “Really, humanity? I grant you free will, and this is what you do with it?”

And, again, what is the big deal supposed to be about Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation)? How is he not just the latest meathead immobile of face and buff of body? Worthington’s Perseus is one of the least engaging heroes I’ve seen outside of a Steven Seagal movie. It’s as if he’s actively resisting every opportunity to join in the action and adventure that allegedly he’s in for as the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson: Chloe, Five Minutes of Heaven), king of the gods: I mean, he’s getting magic demigod swords lobbed at him, and all he can do is sneer cuz he likes playing at being a regular ol’ fisherman so much. (We see no evidence of this, though.) He’s got people like the gods-cursed Io (Gemma Arterton: The Boat That Rocked, Quantum of Solace) telling him, “You’re not just part man, part god, you’re the best of both,” but we really have no idea what she’s referring to. He mostly just stands around and refuses to do anything while Hades (played by Fiennes: The Reader, The Hurt Locker) threatens to release the Kraken (played by the Cloverfield monster) on some hapless ancient city unless they sacrifice Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos: Defiance, The Mist). Until, all of a sudden, he decides, What the hell? and jumps in.

One wonders why it took three screenwriters — Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi — to update Beverley Cross’s 1981 screenplay, and how it’s possible that Hay and Manfredi got another job after penning both Aeon Flux, and The Tuxedo. If only their idea of drama were, in fact, laughable: instead, the film’s steadfast adherence to a policy of utter humorlessness extends to it being ungracious enough to be overblown and melodramatic so we can chuckle at its pretensions. It is, perhaps, a special sort of achievement that Clash of the Titans manages to create the sense of a failed would-be highminded classically inspired drama without any of the actual content one might expect from such an endeavor — not even in poorly realized form.

On the other hand, when the movie isn’t standing around doing nothing and mistaking that for drama, it is overstuffed with ADD action sequences in which Perseus and others fight giant scorpions, Medusa, and other mythical beasts. It’s impossible to tell what’s going on in any of these bits, but they do offer the opportunity for you to close your eyes and recover a little from the 3D sickness.

Clash of the Titans is good for one thing, however: Percy Jackson & the Olympians is starting to looking downright awesome in comparison.


Watch Clash of the Titans online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Magess

    How incredibly disappointing. This was on my list to go see.

    I have no idea what the deal with Sam Worthington is. He seems to have sprung full formed from the Hollywood Star Factory and suddenly everyone was in love with him. I mean, he did just fine in Avatar, I thought, even as just the man inside the puppet. But I really didn’t think Wow! Stellar performance! If Hollywood just needs some new hot guys to use in movies, the CW has quite a few in their corral, and some of them can even act!

  • Dave

    Just what I suspected would happen. They tried to take themselves seriously when the whole concept behind the movie is beyond looney. The charm of the first movie was just how bad the whole thing was and the fact that it wasn’t trying to be anything else. I’ll stick to my DVD of the original thanks.

    Also is anyone else getting really sick of 3d movies? Taking a mediocre concept and adding 3d to it doesn’t make it any better. For that matter taking a great movie and making it 3d doesn’t really improve it all that much either in my opinion

  • Glenn

    Yep, just what I thought. Remake a film that doesn’t need one, cast the latest Star – inexplicably Sam Worthington (seriously? was anyone captivated by his work in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation?), and use the latest cinema gimmick – 3D. An instant cinematic achievement, just $.99 when you purchase a Whopper and fries…

  • The GODS are crazy?

  • Jester

    Ugh, that’s unfortunate.

    I’ve heard that the 2D version is passable, but it sounds like that wouldn’t be the case, either. But yeah, every review I’ve read says the 3D was done horribly badly.

    And Glenn, you need to rewatch the original. I grew up with it too, but… c’mon. The special effects are awful even by the standards of the time. AND it has Harry Hamlin acting opposite a mechanical owl. When they’re on the screen together, it’s sometimes hard to tell who the better actor between the two of them is. ;-)

    A remake had the potential to be complete win. It shouldn’t have been all that hard to surpass the original.

  • Glenn

    Jester, I meant that Clash didn’t need a remake, because the original didn’t deserve to be filmed in the first place.
    And yeah, Bubo and Harry Hamlin were definitely a toss-up… :)

  • Nathan

    When I say that this is empty, cheap, cold, soulless corporate filmmaking, and that that’s its good side, it’s true. Because, on top of all that, someone made the boneheaded decision to convert the film to 3D using, it seems, someone’s nephew who’s got one a them fancy computers, because the 3D isn’t just pointless: it’s incompetently bad.

    Apparently Warner hired Indian subcontractors to do it.
    http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2010/03/diet-coke_3d.php

    Hopefully with How to Train Your Dragon as 3D competition people won’t be as willing to put up with it.

  • You would pretty much have to be a hardcore Harryhausen/mythology geek to appreciate the first version.

    Suffice it to say that I still love that movie even though I know in my heart it will never make any critic’s list of great movies. And at least there was a sincerity to its B-movie attitude which contrasted quite nicely with the more snarky “we couldn’t write our way out of a paper bag but we’re still better than you pathetic movie goers” attitude one found in other B-movies of the 80s, particularly Robocop and the BTTF trilogy. Of course, YMMV.

    That said, one would have thought that Xena and The Legendary Journeys of Hercules proved that there was still a lot of storytelling possibilities in the Greek myths that modern audiences could appreciate. However, judging from the review, this film wasn’t one of them.

  • CB

    I was somewhat impressed by Worthington in Terminator, but I’m realizing that what I thought was Sam upstaging Christian Bale was actually Bale setting the bar so low he couldn’t help but be upstaged. He was also effective in Avatar, but that’s about as far as I’d go.

    As for this p.o.s., gimmicky and poorly done 3D — who would have thought that would happen in the aftermath of Avatar?

    Oh and who’d have thought the vehicle would be another scraping of the 80s nostalgia barrel, trying to drag people in with a name they recognize but make it all for serious to cash in on people who just want a blockbuster without going for the kitsch. Honestly the fact that it was a conceivable possibility that this move wouldn’t suck is an odd testament to our times. It was almost something reasonable to expect from the guy who made what was for the most part a very good movie about the Hulk. Think about that statement.

    Still, really, my surprise level is zero.

    Totally unrelated topic.

    Saw the trailer for Tron before How to Train Your Dragon, and it looked pretty cool.

  • Ben

    I presume that MJJ hasn’t seen Sam Worthington in any of the arthouse/indie films he did in Australia, before moving to Hollywood.

    He was an arresting screen presence in “Somersault” and quite good in the title role of “Macbeth”.

    It’s funny, his performances in various arthouse films lead me to expect that he would be more than just a vanilla action-lead in Hollywood films.

    Perhaps it’s worse knowing that he could do better, he just doesn’t.

  • Rykker

    Aw, maaaaan. I wanted this to be awesome.

    Well, at least my plans for my one weekend off in a blue moon aren’t totally dashed; I’ve myself a ticket to see How to Train Your Dragon in IMAX-3D this morning.
    My first IMAX movie ever. Rawr.

  • Barb

    The music in the trailers was a turnoff to the movie from the get go. Always enjoyed the Harry Hamlin version though. Time to stop it with the remakes and go with original scripts.

  • RogerBW

    3D conversion is to 3D filmmaking as colourisation is to colour filmmaking.

    I believe it is well worth a reviewer’s time to make this distinction clear. The studios won’t admit it, of course, because conversion is very much cheaper so it’ll never be mentioned in the publicity material; but it’s a thing that anyone thinking about going to see a “3D” film needs to know.

    (I suspect that, in spite of the general ghastliness of the film, reviews from people seeing it in 2D will be more generally positive than those from people seeing it in 3D – all the latter I’ve read have commented on the confusion and murkiness.)

  • stryker1121

    One can hope this bomb, so maybe the 3D gimcrackery studios are foisting upon the public post-Avatar will faze out just a bit quicker.

  • RyanT

    The movies looks like crap so therefore I won’t be seeing it, but good to confirm its suckiness from MaryAnn.

    As for Sam Worthington, I feel I have to defend the guy. A lot of people hated Terminator so much that they tried to find one “good” thing about it and so most of the “praise” went to Worthington, which I also believed to be the best part of that much maligned film. And even if his Jake Sully wasn’t the most engaging, did he REALLY need to be? He performed capably and thus he was the beneficiary of the hype and praise the movie received.

    Frankly, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in an non-action/sci-fi/fantasy role. “Last Night” with Keira Knightley later this year?

  • Kenny

    Well, obviously the problem with 3D is that it was masterfully well done in Avatar, so it’s being bolted onto movies by every bugger who wants to cash in on the two and a half billion dollar jackpot.
    It’s hard to get it just right, but it is a skill the film industry will learn.
    Eventually, it will stop being ‘the selling point’ and start just being an integral part of the movie industry.
    I reckon something similar happened with colour too.

  • RogerBW

    Kenny:

    I reckon something similar happened with colour too.

    Some films were re-shot on colour stock, but the technology did not exist to convert a film made in B&W into a colour film, so it wasn’t directly comparable. My contention is that the move from 2D to 3D requires an entire new film-making grammar, which will be only coincidentally like the old one; on this basis, even a technically perfect conversion would still fail.

    So when you say:

    It’s hard to get it just right, but it is a skill the film industry will learn.

    my response is that this is true of making films in 3D, but that conversions will never work because the necessary angles and composition simply won’t be there in the 2D film. That’s why I was advocating the “conversion warning” in my first post: a made-in-3D film may be done well or it may be done badly, but it will at least have been made in the medium in which it is being viewed.

    Indeed, it seems to me that purist reviewers should actively seek out 2D versions of converted films, and review only those…

  • MaryAnn

    I presume that MJJ hasn’t seen Sam Worthington in any of the arthouse/indie films he did in Australia, before moving to Hollywood.

    Assuming that MJJ refers to me: No, I haven’t. Perhaps I will someday soon. But if he’s amazing in those movies and nothing more than adequate in what he’s done for Hollywood, then something is very wrong. What’s the point of taking him out of a milieu where he’s good and sticking him in movies that suck and that don’t take advantage of whatever talents he might have?

    Even if his Australian work is good, his Hollywood work can still suck.

    Indeed, it seems to me that purist reviewers should actively seek out 2D versions of converted films, and review only those…

    I doubt I’m going to bother sitting through *Titans* again. I do consider that I’ve offered a service in sharing what I thought of the 3D version, which is the one critics were offered in NYC. No one from Warner Bros. asked me whether I’d prefer to see the 2D version…

  • RogerBW

    I doubt I’m going to bother sitting through *Titans* again.

    That would be above and beyond.

    I do consider that I’ve offered a service in sharing what I thought of the 3D version,

    Most certainly you have.

    which is the one critics were offered in NYC. No one from Warner Bros. asked me whether I’d prefer to see the 2D version…

    “They would say that, wouldn’t they?” – for the moment, WB is keen to pack as many people into the 3D theatres as possible for the extra money. They’re hoping, I guess, that reviewers who pan the film won’t concentrate on the 2D aspect of it…

  • Boingo

    It was pretty good “schlock,”as far as
    B(minus) movies go. I put the glistening suit of Zeus (har har-godly bed hopper; the back door god; deadbeat dad )up there with original special efx (gee-awesome!).I think the real essence of this movie was the vitality of the animated monsters(they moved around pretty good).

    The tragedy was the missed opportunity
    for the cinematic pun of the year:
    Townspeople could have amassed in a rally cry-“LET’s GET Kraken!!”

  • I’m gonna try and see this in 2D, since so many of the negative reviews (not this one, of course) are so hyper-focused on the horrifying 3D… maybe it’s a case of reverse-Avatar syndrome?

    I mean, could be… right?

  • Townspeople could have amassed in a rally cry-“LET’s GET Kraken!!”

    And if they had filmed it in Germany and then cast every role with local actors, they could have called it Clash of the Teutons

  • MaSch

    And if they had filmed it in Germany and then cast every role with local actors, they could have called it Clash of the Teutons…

    And I’m still waiting for the plot (in the widest sense) being remade with Italian painters in the roles of the heroes and monsters … Clash of the Titians!

  • allochthon

    Did Zeus remind anyone else of the “angels” from the original BSG War of the Gods?

  • Boingo

    While we’re unraveling this serious critique
    (aw, what the heck):Enter Medusa-underlying
    orchestral arrangement to Bob Dylan’s “Everybody
    Must Get Stoned( Rainy Day Women# something or other).”

  • I just saw Clash of the Titans in glorious cinematic 2D, and I am now pretty convinced that the horrible 3D really contributed to the negative reviews in more than just a technical aspect.

    It’s not a great film by any means, but it was big and loud and fun and when I let myself remember it’s just a big goofy adventure flick I actually enjoyed it. There’s definitely a lot that seems to have been cut out, characters are introduced and abandoned at a whim… and Zeus seems to go Good Guy / Bad Guy / Good Guy for no reason. But it’s Liam Neeson so you kind of forgive him.

    Anyways, I’d give it a solid C+

  • You wonder how it could go so wrong? Hint: IT’S A REMAKE!!! Remakes are Hollywood’s admission they ran out of imagination years ago. And you’re expecting this to be as good (never mind better) than the original?

  • IT’S A REMAKE!!! Remakes are Hollywood’s admission they ran out of imagination years ago. And you’re expecting this to be as good (never mind better) than the original?

    Yeah, stay away from stinkers like The Magnificent Seven, The Wizard of Oz, Ben-Hur, A Fistful of Dollars, Cronenberg’s The Fly, Branagh’s Henry V (and lots of other Shakespeare movies), The Ten Commandments, all versions of Pride and Prejudice after the 1940 one, and Batman Begins.

    Generalizations. Ugh.

  • Nikopol

    I knew this would be crap when the pre-release stills showed a supposed Ancient Greek hero with a jarhead buzzcut (‘300’ may not be the best place to start engaging with the classical civilisations, but Gerard Butler 80% naked looked a hell of a lot more like a hoplite than Sam ‘Michael Biehn for the 2010s’ Worthington).

    Original COTT was one of my first flicks seen in the cinema and I love it for that. Harryhausen>bad CGI anyday.

  • Liz

    Well Maryanne you should have been in the theatre I had the misfortune to see it in. The damn movie was coloured purple and green and flickered. I kid you not. And what is worse no one got up to complain except me. I’ve always had a big mouth but really. They fixed the colour, but couldn’t fix the movie. I couldn’t believe anything could be worse than the Harry Hamlin movie, but it was.

  • AsimovLives

    I saw CLASH OF THE TITANS in 3D, and i think it was for the best. At least i mannaged to get some fun watching the floating hair which existed in it’s own space. And sometimes the 3D caused this weird effect of making the characters look like they had 2 faces superimposed, as if they were a filmed version of a Picasso painting. And none of this was stylization, it was just incompetence.

    CLASH OF THE TITANS is a movie that wants to have it’s cake and eat it too. It wants to be seen as a fun movie, for the masses to see. And yet, it also wants to have some seriousness to it. The filmmakers, specially the director, this ar epeople who want to make movies with the appeal of Michael Bay’s, but they want to be Christopher Nolan when they grow up. And the result is this movie, this chimera, that is neither smart nor wholesome fun. It exists in this limbo, this cinematic limbo created by many filmmakers like JJ Abrams, Zack Snyder, and Louis Leterrier, hacks with intelelctual ambitions, people whose only competence is to make dumb movies, but want to be taken seriously as important and thoughful filmmakers (which they aren’t), while making entertaiment for the hoi polloi is is suppsoed to be dumb fun and yet important. Bascially, they are trying to pull a THE DARK KNIGHT but with the filmming aestetics of Michael Bay. Good luck with that, guys!

    I have to admit, there is a certain schadenfreude pleasure to have with this movie, the wicked fun that is to have by seeing an hack fail miserably and trip all over himself, biting more then they can chew and making a poor spectacle fo themselves. This movie brought me memories of THE ISLAND, that movie when Bay tried to be both entertaining and thoughful. And failed at both equality and miserably.

    And the floating hair was just too much!!

    There is one good thing i took from this movie: Gemma Arterton is one good looking lady.

    P.S.: Word of advise to filmmakers: when you want to make a period movie, Sam Worthington is not the man to go. And really, him playing an ancient greek with a crew cut? Are this people for real? What is it with Hollywood that whenever they make a movie about the ancient antiquity, be it set in ancient egypt or ancient greece, they populate it with romans? Shades of TROY on the character department in this CLASH OF THE TITANS. Everybody acted and behaved as romans. I just don’t get it, an hundred million dollars budget and they can’t even this this tiny detail right? What is wrong with this people?

  • AsimovLives

    Bluejay, friend, in what way can BATMAN BEGINS be considered a remake? What argument can you offer?

  • AsimovLives: It’s a reimagining of an existing origin story of an existing character. Does that not qualify?

  • Yes, remakes can work; for example, BEN-HUR, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and BATMAN BEGINS are excellent movies, sometimes like BEN-HUR they can be better than the original; I haven’t seen MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, WIZARD OF OZ, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, HENRY V and the Shakespeare movies, but I will see them, and I will probably like those as well.

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